“We are not Bangladeshis, we are citizens of India. We are poor people. Our houses were bulldozed. We have no place to live. Where will we go?,” Rahim sobbed while speaking with Newsclick. Every day at 4 p.m., Rahim’s wife, Nabli ventures out of her rickety shelter to wash dishes in nearby houses while her husband is out at work, leaving behind her three children at home.
Following her daily routine, on Sunday, Nabli came back to a horrific site where she witnessed her house being razed to the ground. It was not just Nabli and Rahim, but 400 other families also faced a similar fate as their houses were demolished.
As per the reports, nearly 400 houses have been razed to the ground by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), rendering several families, and nearly 1400 people homeless on Sunday in Bengaluru. As per the reports, the demolition drive was targeted at the encroachments on lake beds. This is not the first time, as earlier, as many as 1,923 encroachments had been flattened by the city civic body. As per the sources, the BBMP has been targeting small houses, shelters, and middle-class houses and is hand-in-gloves with the big builders.
In the latest demolition drive, the houses bulldozed belonged to security guards, maids, waste pickers, who have been living in the area for the last 8 years and more. Moreover, no prior notice had been sent to the families. “There was no prior notice. We cannot afford a new house. We are sleeping in the streets. We have no food to eat. My three children have been starving since yesterday. Where shall we go? Can you help us out?”, said Rahim.
As per the sources, the BBMP has demolished scores of houses in the area by calling it a Buffer Zone Violation. As per the NGT Revised Master Plan 2031, properties developed on the 75-meter long buffer zone around lakes and drains cannot be redeveloped. In its order on May 4, 2016, NGT increased the buffer zones from 30 metre to 75 metre. “BBMP demolished almost 400 houses yesterday saying that it was occupying the buffer zone. A simple measurement using Google maps shows they were wrong. The shelters were constructed 1.3 kilometers away from the Bellandur lake. Also, the spot was at least 103 meter from the ‘raja kaluve’ (stormwater drain). So, by no chance is it in the buffer zone. Even if there were violations, the BBMP has to do a survey, then issue a notice and only then can they demolish buildings on private property. Here there were no notices, no surveys but straight away demolition. How one justifies that?”, an activist named Vinay, who was at the spot told Newsclick.
“For raja kaluve, the buffer zone is 5 metre per minor irrigation act and 50 m as per NGT order. The houses were 103 metre away. So, where is the buffer zone violation?”, Vinay added.
Initially, the lake bed buffer zone was 30 metre but it was extended to 75 metre as part of the Revised Master Plan. Multiple petitions have been filed by people and activists regarding the revised plan by NGT. “We were against the order since it came out and extended the buffer zone to 75 metre. We knew such demolitions would take place. We have been asking about how a responsible body like NGT can take such a decision. What about the middle class people, builders and land developers who have their hard earned properties situated there. Also, what about the poor people who have their shelter located there because it costs them less money,” said an activist on the condition of anonymity.
As per the National Green Tribunal order, the RMP 2031 highlights that a 75-metre area from the periphery of all water bodies has to be maintained as green belt and buffer zones in the case of lakes.
Meanwhile, the homeless families have no place to live and no food to eat. To them, yesterday was a doomsday and they don’t know what to do next. “5 JCBs had arrived at Kariyammana to demolish the shelters. There was notice or nothing. We were unaware. We have Aadhar cards, identity cards. Our children go to the nearby schools. We are domestic workers,” said Zakir, another resident whose shelter was demolished.